Autumn has another two weeks to run, but you wouldn’t know it from the furious activity of Rye’s winter sports teams.
By Mitch Silver
Autumn has another two weeks to run, but you wouldn’t know it from the furious activity of Rye’s winter sports teams. All along Boston Post Road, the players are running wind sprints and the coaches are blowing their whistles. Let’s look in on a few of the squads as they gear up for the campaign.
Lara Vivolo coaches the combined Rye/Rye Neck/Blind Brook swim team. “We have 22 boys,” she said. “Thirteen are from Rye High, eight from Blind Brook, and Tyler Dunn, an eighth-grader, goes to Rye Neck. He swims backstroke for the Badger Swim Club, so he’s a welcome addition.”
Captains Thomas Mackey and Cas Harshbarger are Garnets, while fellow captains Ryan Bedell and Baptisite Saliba attend Blind Brook High. Others expected to contribute include senior Liam Egan, who swam freestyle at States a year ago, junior Christian Huber, an exchange student from Germany, and Michael Ackert, the team’s top diver. The league kicks off today with a home swim at Hommocks School against Scarsdale, defending Sectional champs.
Coincidentally, the Garnet wrestling team also consists of 22 boys. “That’s up from the 14 we had last year, so things are looking good,” Head Coach Matt Beatty said.
This week saw the changeover from 150-minute training sessions that were 90% conditioning to shorter practices that work more on technique. “We also have a built-in hour in the library for homework, which the captains oversee,” the coach explained.
Those captains are senior Franklin Goldszer, scheduled to wrestle at 152 pounds, and junior Miles Giordano, slated for the 195 classification. A much younger grappler is Phillip Smith, who wrestled and won last year as an eighth grader at 113. “He’s put on some muscle,” the coach said, smiling, “so we’re thinking he’ll be at 132. You couldn’t find a nicer, more respectful boy off the mat. On it…well…he’ll rip your head off.”
Rye’s own eight-team tourney is set to begin December 5 at 9 a.m.
Jim Yedowitz and John McGee oversee the Garnets’ track team. Coach Yedowitz was brief and to the point. “On the boys side, we graduated 18 seniors from what was possibly the strongest team I ever had. This year we have only four. Two of them are newcomers and the other two — Alec Miranda and Owen Moore — are seasoned veterans. Unfortunately, Ian George tore his ACL playing football; he would have been our strongest entry in the shot put.”
His forecast for the season ahead? “We’re young, so we’ll struggle. But our ninth and tenth graders are really talented. So in the long run, I’m optimistic.”
Down the road at Rye Neck, the Boys’ Basketball team has a new coach. James Mooney, who played professionally in Europe, returned a few years ago to help coach his Iona Prep alma mater to a State title. Now he’s looking to move the Panthers, who had a tough 2014-15 campaign, back up the standings.
“We have a good, athletic point guard in Kol Lewis and a couple of guys with height — John Luiso and John Paul are both around 6’5”. I’ve moved Noah Caplan to the two-guard spot. After that, it’ll be a team effort. I see us playing grind-it-out, pass-and-cut basketball.”
The team travels to Yonkers Montessori Academy today. After a Tuesday visit to Valhalla, they’ll host Martin Luther King, Jr. High School from Hastings-on-Hudson December 10.
On the other side of the gym, Cathy Toolan is starting her 18th season as Girls’ Basketball coach. “We graduated seven seniors and have only one returning starter, sophomore Alexa Garcia. I’m looking to our captains, Kayla Casas and Rosella Salanitro, for senior leadership.”
Sophomore Olivia Beach provides the only height on the Panther squad. Luckily, she spent the fall leaping and blocking shots for the school’s volleyball team, so she should be ready to do the same for Coach Toolan.
“I learned my basketball playing for Gina Maher, a coaching legend at Irvington,’ she said. “She taught us that you get out of this game what you put in. I’m asking this team to put in a lot.” The Black Cats open at home December 8, against Edgemont.
Two miles up the road at Rye Country Day, Coach Joe Rue and his staff will finally see their fencers compete on the big stage, the school’s Athletic Center, when they host Greens Farms this afternoon. “This team isn’t about wins and losses,” he said. “It about learning that it’s better to take part — even if you lose — than to sit on the sidelines. Of course, we like to win.”
The Wildcats have won more than their share in the 28 years Rue has been their coach. “I picked up the sport as a kid in Madrid, and I think the romance of fencing is still drawing kids in today.”
Kyle Mitschele, whose coaching responsibilities include the Middle School, agreed. “We grow our own. A lot of our fencers join without any experience. We start them out on foil and see where they go.” If they can hold their own against Masters and Horace Mann, it should be a long way.
At the end of practice on the ice, Hockey Head Coach Erik Kallio took a moment to consider his 2015-16 Wildcat team. “We lost a lot of scoring punch to graduation, so we’ll need some guys to step up and contribute. I think we’ll be stronger on defense, though…we certainly have more depth on the D line. And our goalies are back.”
Rye Country Day started slow a year ago, and then improved right through the season. “We dropped a couple of beatable teams from the schedule and we took our lumps early. But we got better as we went along, and that’s certainly what you want.”
He’ll count on veterans Billy Grossman, Ryan Jaeger, and Jeremy Regan to work the power play and penalty kills until the younger players sort themselves out. It all starts December 9, when they host Hamden Hall.
Rye Country Day has a new Boys’ Basketball coach. Steve Gage, a coach for years at Byram Hills and Westlake, has the taken the reins of a team that looks strong on paper. While last year’s starting backcourt, Salim Green and Vincent Conn, have graduated, Gage will have his two bigs back down low: Chris Picard and Emmanuel Chukwu, a 6’8” man among boys. Matthew Farber and Robert Newman will see a lot of minutes as will Jared Jones, who’ll transfer his foot speed from the gridiron to the team’s backcourt.
“We have seven juniors on the team,” Gage said, “and I see them all getting a good look early in the season. After that, things will sort themselves out.” The sorting-out begins today against Staten Island Academy at the Fieldston Tournament.